Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes that Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews was upset when he learned that he was ranked No. 130 in ESPN.com's latest "NBA Rank" listing of the NBA's top 500 players.
"My boys spent the whole summer (ticking) me off," Matthews said, smirking, as he recalled the abuse. "They kept telling me I wasn't playing like I did when I first came out of college, that I wasn't fighting like I did when I was in Utah. They kept telling me I changed. I know they didn't mean it, but they kept saying it. And it (ticked) me off."
Another message from another friend set his skin on fire. ESPN had released its top-to-bottom rankings of NBA players and slotted Matthews 130th, behind players such as JJ Hickson (127), Lou Williams (120) and - gasp - Raymond Felton (108).
"When they showed me the ESPN rankings, that (stuff) really (ticked) me off," Matthews said. "My friends already got me excited coming into the season with their stuff. I was already ready to get back to having that extreme hunger, like famine, like the you-haven't-eaten-in-weeks hunger. But when the ESPN rankings came out? That was crazy. That's just disrespectful. But, you know what, whatever. I've never been given the benefit of the doubt yet, so why should it start now?"
Matthews ranked fifth among Blazers on ESPN.com's list. All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge placed somewhere in the top 25 (not revealed yet), guard Damian Lillard ranked No. 30, forward Nicolas Batum ranked No. 57 and center Robin Lopez ranked No. 128.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has more on Matthews, including some thoughts from coach Terry Stotts, right here.
"That's the big thing that I wanted to do was be seen as a playmaker," Matthews said to CSNNW.com. "I don't like when people label me. I just don't like labels period. I understand them, you have to describe somebody. I just don't like being described. I don't like being put in a box with a ceiling over me telling me what my potential is because you don't know it. I'm always trying to add to my game and that's the beauty of it."
"Last year was my first year with him and I thought he filled his role very well," Stotts said. "I like our players to try and build on their game, but at the same time, not at the expense of what they do well. Wes is an outstanding three-point shooter, outstanding defender, he's an outstanding leader. The more playmakers you have on the court, the better it is for the team. But, I think it's important like any player, that they play within themselves and make smart plays and don't try to do things that they are not necessarily good at yet."
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com also did a Matthews interview last week.
The team brought in players this offseason that either play your position or have similar skills to your own, but Stotts has been steadfast in saying you're the starter. Do you consider it a competition?
Wesley Matthews: Everything is a competition. Life's a competition. I never want to back down from competition or shy away from it. It's only gonna make me better, I'm only going to make them better.
I don't know what my future holds here. I don't look at any of that. Some people do; I'm not that kind of person. I'm here, I'm a Trail Blazer and I'm gonna play my ass off as a Trail Blazer.
For what it's worth, Matthews was not included on the SI.com Top 100 of 2014 either, a list I spent roughly one full month of my life working on. He was in the mix among the last 20 guys cut if I remember correctly.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter